A Mouthwatering Duck Ragu

Spring is in the air! Don’t let the warm weather fool you- there’s still time for one last hearty winter dish as the seasons finally change. This duck ragù is a comforting, one pot meal that develops a lot of flavor as it simmers low and slow for over an hour.

A ragù is typically a thick, Italian-style meat sauce made from any type of beef, pork or game. Before starting culinary school, I had never cooked with duck. The breast and thigh meat are much darker (more muscle fibers) than turkey or chicken, which lends itself to a longer cooking time, making it an underused protein for many home cooks. Don’t be afraid to change up your meat selection by adding a rich, robust duck flavor to this tomato-based sauce. Duck ragù can be served alongside pappardelle (or your favorite pasta) and creamy polenta. It’s even perfect eaten cold right out of the refrigerator the next morning.

Duck Ragu
Serves 4

4 duck legs and thighs, trimmed of excess fat
Kosher salt, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 ¼ cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1- 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
½ cup chicken stock
1 large bunch fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 large bunch fresh thyme, roughly chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Pappardelle, cooked according to the directions on the package

1. Pat the trimmed duck legs and thighs completely dry and season with a generous amount of kosher salt.
2. In a large stockpot over medium-high, heat the olive oil until it ripples. Sear the duck legs and thighs in batches until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Set aside to drain on a paper towel.
3. Using the leftover oil in the pan (use fresh olive oil if burned), sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 4 minutes.
4. Deglaze the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan with the red wine. Let cook for 3 minutes until reduced by half.
5. Stir in the tomato paste and anchovy paste until well combined. Add in the tomatoes, chicken stock, fresh sage and fresh thyme. Cover and let cook for one hour.
6. When the duck legs and thighs are fork tender, remove to a separate plate and shred the meat into small chunks. Put the shredded meat back into the sauce and let simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes. Season with red pepper flakes to taste. Serve with cooked pappardelle, a pinch of fresh chopped parsley and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

Pair this hearty meal with a glass of Sangiovese. The firm tannins cut right through the richness of a slow braised ragu, and the wine’s tart cherry notes are a perfect match with duck.

Perfect match: Toscana Rosso, Fattoria il Palagio – 2009

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